Residents evacuated from Barton House in November are grappling with a new hurdle – a norovirus outbreak at the Holiday Inn, where they have been temporarily housed by Bristol City Council. The situation prompted a multi-agency meeting, including representatives from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Bristol City Council, the hotel’s management, and the Integrated Care Board.
The meeting, held on Thursday, aimed to address the growing health concerns as residents reported sickness and diarrhoea symptoms, suspected to be caused by norovirus. A comprehensive action plan was devised to mitigate the outbreak and protect the wellbeing of those affected.
In a letter addressed to all residents on Friday, the UKHSA outlined measures to contain the spread of the virus. While the bug is believed to be norovirus, some residents also reported developing a rash. The letter assured that most affected individuals had recovered, but precautions and infection control measures would persist. The plan included a testing program for residents exhibiting symptoms.
The living conditions at the Holiday Inn, where hundreds of Barton House evacuees have resided for over two months, have been a consistent source of complaints. Residents voiced concerns about cramped spaces and subpar food quality, exacerbating the challenges of an extended stay. The prolonged occupancy has now escalated to a health crisis, necessitating the involvement of the UKHSA.
The letter cautioned residents that the virus could spread more rapidly in environments where large groups congregate, particularly children participating in group activities. Consequently, residents were advised to practice thorough handwashing before preparing or consuming food. Parents were instructed to keep children home from school, and adults were advised to stay off work for at least two days after the last occurrence of sickness or diarrhoea.
Additional directives included informing hotel staff for new bedding and towels, as well as requesting additional cleaning services. For those displaying symptoms, the UKHSA recommended staying in rooms until being symptom-free for two days, with individualized meal service to prevent the need to leave the confines of their accommodations.
Barton House, constructed in 1958 with 98 flats, became the focus of evacuation on November 14, as Bristol City Council ordered the departure of 94 occupied flats. The displaced residents, numbering between 350 and 400, were relocated to the Holiday Inn next to the Bearpit in Bristol city centre. Despite the expectation that the building would be cleared for return on February 23, around 45 households, as per ACORN, the tenants’ union representative for Barton House residents, have expressed reluctance to return. Instead, they are pursuing rehousing options under the council’s HomeChoice system.
The ongoing situation at Barton House highlights the challenges faced by families, especially those with young children, forced to reside in small hotel rooms without kitchen facilities. The integration of fire safety systems is underway this month, emphasizing the urgency of returning residents to their homes while ensuring their safety.
As the community copes with the norovirus outbreak and lingering concerns about living conditions, the collaborative efforts of the UK Health Security Agency, Bristol City Council, and other involved parties aim to safeguard the health and well-being of Barton House evacuees during this challenging period.